Roll into Spring: Tips to Get Kids Riding
When you’re a kid, the world is full of firsts. First steps. First hopscotch. First time feeling the rush of life on wheels. Although these moments are exciting for kiddos, they can be downright nerve-wracking for parents. When it comes to teaching children the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of wheeled play, a lot of parents aren’t sure where to start. To help make bike riding, skateboarding, and scootering fun for kids (and less nail-biting for parents), check out our tips on how to get kids safely cruising through spring.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT WHEELS FOR YOUR KID
Whether your kid is already a pro at bike riding or they’re just getting the hang of that whole balance thing, there is a type of wheeled play for every kid out there. Here are some of the most popular ways to wheel (and why we think they’re so great):
• Skateboard: Ideal for kids ages five and up, skateboards are a fantastic way for children to learn balance and increase coordination. Look for a kid-friendly board that’s sized just right for small feet.
• Scooter: Kids as young as two can enjoy dashing around on a scooter. Three-wheeled models are best for toddlers since they’re a bit more stable, while two-wheeled ones tend to be more fun and challenging for older kids. Either way, scootering helps develop balance and improve motor skills — and boost kids’ confidence!
• Balance bike: Perfect for the bike-riding beginner, a balance bike is a great option for toddlers as young as 18 months. Sometimes called push-bikes, they have a pedal-less design that helps kids learn balance as they zip around.
• Pedal bike: Once your little one has mastered the push-bike, it’s time for a pedal bike! Kids can cover a lot of ground on a bike with pedals, which makes these fun rides awesome for longer outdoor adventures.
GET SOME GOOD GEAR
Stumbles, tumbles, bruises, and scrapes are just part of living life as a kid. But when it comes to wheeled play, it’s important to have the right safety equipment to keep little ones protected from more serious injuries. Before you head out, make sure your kid has the following gear:
• A snug-fitting helmet: Look for a helmet that fits securely and meets federal safety standards. Certified bike/scooter helmets should have a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Committee) sticker inside, while skateboard helmets should have an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) sticker. Whenever possible, shop for a helmet in person so you can be sure it fits correctly. (Never buy a used helmet, since it could be damaged without showing any visible signs.)
• Sturdy shoes: Shoes should fit snug (but not tight), have durable soles, and preferably have a lace-free design (so they’re less likely to come untied and get tangled in wheels). Our Speed Hound shoe for little and big kids is just right for wheeled play. For extra durability when rolling, pushing, and foot braking, we took the protection of our iconic rubber toe bumper and extended it all the way to the heel. The unique tread pattern on the sole is inspired by car and bike tires, making it super grippy even on smooth concrete. Two hook-and-loop straps on the top make it easy to adjust, so shoes stay put and don’t come undone.
• Knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves: When kids are new to getting the hang of riding, scooting, and skating, a little extra gear can go a long way. If your kid loves to take risks or would just feel a bit more confident with some added protection, consider purchasing kid-sized knee and elbow pads and/or padded-palm gloves for those little falls.
Speed Hound is made for foot brakers and toe draggers.
SEEK OUT SAFE LEARNING SPACES
Once your young athlete has mastered going up and down the driveway on their new wheels, it’s time to start skill-building in new environments. Here are a few of our favorite places to cruise with kids because they’re great for little learners, but fun for the rest of the family too:
• Multiuse paths: Shared by pedestrians and cyclists but closed to cars, multiuse paths and trails are the perfect places for kids to practice skills, build endurance, and learn how to interact with other users. Most shared-use paths welcome bikes, scooters, and skateboards, but it’s always a good idea to check whether other types of vehicles are allowed on your local path.
• Pump tracks: Typically constructed out of concrete or packed dirt, pump tracks are one of the best areas for kids to practice bike and balance skills. The looped course makes it easy to try out techniques over and over, get comfortable going fast, and gain the confidence to try new things. We love that public pump tracks are built with rounded edges and gentle embankments so kids can safely find their flow. Plus, pump tracks are great for all ages and abilities.
Pump tracks add dirt hills, curves, and fun for both pedal and balance bike riders. We love this one here in Portland.
• Skateparks: One of the more accessible places to enjoy an afternoon on wheels, skateparks can be found in cities big and small. Originally created specifically for skateboard use, many skateparks now allow scooters and bikes and have added new features that are fun for all users. Since most skateparks have multiple sections, they give kids a chance to push themselves as well as learn new skills from watching others.
KEEP THINGS FUN
Maybe your kid has a need for speed and loves to take risks. Or perhaps your child is more of the out-for-a-casual-cruise type who prefers to play it safe. No matter how your kid approaches wheeled play, it’s important to keep things fun so they don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. Some of our tried-and-true ways to keep the energy up while riding? Check them out:
• Make it a game. A great way to take the pressure off while enjoying wheeled activities is to add a little lighthearted challenge. Consider creating a simple obstacle course at a local park or around the yard that kids can complete for a sense of accomplishment. Or scoot through a neighborhood scavenger hunt as a family. (Just make sure kiddos keep their eyes on the sidewalk while riding!)
• Break for snacks. Sometimes a tasty treat and a cool drink are just the thing to refresh a tired kid. Be sure to pack really good snacks when heading out on a new-to-your-kid adventure. When you sense they could use a break, whip out those super special snacks and take some time to talk about how important it is to refuel after a day of hard work.
• Celebrate successes. Did your kid make it up that hill? Figure out a new skate trick? Fall down while trying something new? Celebrate their important accomplishments by adding a sticker to their bike, scooter, or skateboard. Recognizing their efforts will instill pride in trying new things and give them something to look forward to when they complete a goal. Plus, when they see their collection of stickers grow, they’ll know how far they’ve come since they first pushed off.